Often toxic leaders will snear, “If you aren’t with us, you are against us.” They want you to choose their side. But, when it comes to oppression, you better be against them.
In Numbers 23 a fascinating story is told about Balak and Balaam. Balak was the King of Moab and as the people of Israel “camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho,” the inhabitants of Moab were frightened.
They knew the stories of Israel crossing the Red Sea. They knew of the Israelite God who overcame the Egyptians. They expected they would be next at the short end of the stick in the long line of successive military victories for Israel.
So, Balak summoned Balaam, “the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw.”
Unlike, our “enlighted” culture, they understood that God had much to do with these victories – whether it was the true God they looked to or another god made up by the culture. Balak called on Balaam to “curse” the Israelites. He was to call upon God to destroy Israel.
But an incredible thing happened.
To Curse or Not to Curse
Firstly, Balaam was not willing to willy-nilly curse people without God truly wishing them to be cursed. So, he sought the Lord and the Lord said, “No.” But Balak was desparate and said, “I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.’”
“Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more. So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.”
The Lord sent him with Balak, but to make a long story a bit shorter, in the end, Balaam actually “blesses” Israel because the Lord told him to do so.
There is a lesson here. I am sorry for taking so long to get to it.
- Bless whom God blesses
Firstly, we bless whom the Lord wishes us to bless. If you bless whom the Lord chooses, you are on His side.
In fact, Jesus took that idea so seriously he said,
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
[Matthew 18:5-6 (ESV)]
We must never place a burden or a road block in the way of one who is vulnerable. The Lord uses the language of the “widow,” “orphan,” and “child” when speaking of those who are vulnerable. They are the weak ones that must be cared for by those of us who are stronger…in wealth, power, or health.
So, we bless those who are weaker…because the Lord is on their side. On whose side will you choose to be?
2. Don’t Go Along to Get Along
And secondly, we owe no allegiance to those who would not stand beside the weak. Balak had a choice to be on the Lord’s side. But instead he chose to curse God’s chosen people.
Again, God is on the side of the oppressed…even when they do not know he is. God despises the powerful taking advantage of the poor and weak. On the other hand, Balaam wisely chose to hear what God had to say and only do what the Lord commanded regarding his people.
Even though Balak had the power and wealth to make him miserable or happy.
So, when someone is being oppressed by a toxic leader or spouse, whose side will you join? Being neutral is actually choosing to stand away from the weak. It is choosing to not support the oppressed.
You need to make that choice even when that toxic leader is wealthy and powerful and likely very charming.
Our Own Experience
When we left a mission organization because of abusive leadership, it was common for people to think it “couldn’t be that bad.” Maybe we just didn’t understand the leadership or there was bad communication.
We have learned the language of abuse and in so doing are able to bless those whom the Lord blesses much better than we did before. I encourage you to learn the language. To learn what kind of people abusers are whether in the workplace or the home.
With that learning comes responsibility…and I have not always been willing to stand for the oppressed. Even now I have been encouraged to engage in pursuing justice in a church leadership case and I fear the confrontations that likely will result.